Sweetness and Light

Roseanne Sullivan interviews Jewish-Catholic author Roy Shoeman.

Roy Schoeman was born in a suburb of New York City of Conservative Jewish parents who had fled Nazi Germany. 

Educated at MIT and Harvard Business School, Schoeman had a conversion to Christianity midway through a career of teaching and consulting. His first book, Salvation is From the Jews, examined the role of Judaism in salvation history as illumined by the Catholic faith.

He has pursued theological studies at several seminaries, helped produce and host a Catholic television talk show and edited and written for several Catholic books and reviews. 

In March, Ignatius Press published Honey From the Rock: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ. Register correspondent Roseanne Therese Sullivan spoke with him.

Honey from the Rock was released in March. What were some of the more surprising things you learned while compiling it?

I think the stories I have compiled in Honey From the Rock are compelling in a lot of ways. I was fascinated to see how consistently it was through supernatural intervention that Jews are brought into the Church.

They were experiences like mine, essentially theophanies, direct breakthroughs of the supernatural into the material world, in order to answer the questions that the Jews had been wrestling with. “Is there a God? And what is the real truth?”

One case was David Moss, a middle manager, who was sitting in his office agonizing over the meaning of life when he was literally brought up to heaven. From his office at IBM.

Most of the cases in the book were simply Jews who were earnestly seeking. Even if they were not aware of it, they were seekingGod, seeking the truth — at which point God in his sovereign exercise of his majesty reached out to them.

Stories like that show how dear the Jewish people are to God’s heart and how eager he is to bring them to the truth and to the fullness of relationship with him in the Catholic Church, if only they would ask, like the Gospel says, “Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened.”

The Scriptures say Greeks seek wisdom and Jews seek signs. There may be something to them being so stubborn and hard hearted that it takes a miracle to get them to accept how wrong they’ve been.

Hermann Cohen happened to be in a Church during Eucharistic adoration when the host was elevated and received an instantaneous conversion. [Cohen was a pianist and protégé of Franz Liszt who, after his conversion, became a Carmelite friar, Father Augustin Marie of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and spent the rest of his life preaching the faith and championing Eucharistic adoration.]

Alphonse Ratisbonne was very anti-Christian and received an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was wearing a Miraculous Medal and saying the Memorare every day on a dare. And he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as she appeared on the Miraculous Medal. [Ratisbonne also became a priest and with his brother founded the Sisters of Sion, to pray for the Jews.]

And (author) Ronda Chervin was looking at a painting of Jesus that became alive.

In your experience that you described in both books of “falling into heaven” when you were walking the beach, you said to God, “Let me know your name so I know what religion to follow so I can worship and serve you properly. I don’t mind if you are Apollo and I have to become a Roman pagan. I don’t mind if you are Buddha and I have become Buddhist. I don’t mind if you are Krishna and I have to become Hindu as long as you are not Christ.” How is it that you didn’t recognize God as the God you had worshipped as a devout Jew in your youth?

The God who revealed himself to me was all love, and I would say that I thought of the God of the Old Testament as far more distant and implacable and severe.

What do you think is intriguing people about what you have written?

When I wrote the first book, I thought that it would appeal to a very small section of Catholics who for some reason had a similar interest in Jews and Judaism. And I was very surprised it became somewhat of a best-seller and hit such a responsive chord among a wide range of Catholics.

One reason for it I think is that Judaism and the Catholic faith are not two different faith systems. They are exactly the same religion, separated in time by the fact of the coming of the Messiah.

And therefore, looking at the relationship between the two resonates very deeply and richly, and makes somehow more concrete and more compelling for Catholic readers their own Catholic faith.

I think there is another dimension too. I think that we are living in the times that St. Paul alluded to in the Letter of the Romans when the number of the Gentiles is close to complete, when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, the veil will be lifted from the eyes of the Jews and there will be a wave of Jewish entry into the Church, and that will be the final completion of the Church to precede the Second Coming.

I think because that supernaturally it is that time, on some level therefore God is inspiring this interest.

Talk about your experience with the Catholic Church.

I came into the Catholic Church essentially totally convinced of its correctness of its truthfulness of its direct link to God.

So I would say the only thing that really surprised me later about the Catholic Church is the fact that a fair number of Catholics don’t realize the truth in their own faith, that many people are Catholic because their parents are Catholic and they were born into it.

And so they’ve never really come into it on their own. They don’t actually see the unique relationship to the truth and to God that’s represented by the Catholic faith. And that was really my only surprise that people can be Catholic and not know what a treasure they have.

For people who may not know your first book, talk about the title: Salvation Is From the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History From Abraham to the Second Coming.

The book examines the role of Judaism in salvation history as illumined by the Catholic faith. If the second person of the Most Holy Trinity was to incarnate, it would be among a particular people at a particular point in time, even in the womb of a particular virgin, and that people would have to be prepared. They would have to be separated out from all the pagan peoples around them, taught about the one true God, the creation of Man, the fall, the seriousness of sin, the need for redemption, the need for a redeemer — the Messiah who was to come.

They would have to be taught how to serve and worship the one true God, be taught to follow a reasonably high level of morality, and given enough theological revelation to recognize the Messiah when he came, and to spread the Gospel throughout the world afterwards.

That is the role the Jews were chosen for, and in which they succeeded — else there could hardly be 2 billion Christians in the world today.

Roseanne Therese Sullivan writes from San José, California.

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